In the recent overhaul of Australian quotas is a proposal to address a “loophole” which sees New Zealand television qualifying as Australian content.
Under the Australia-NZ Economic Trade Agreement, NZ titles such as The Brokenwood Mysteries (pictured top), Westside, Mean Mums, Funny Girls (pictured bottom), Border Patrol, Motorway Patrol have counted towards local content quotas in Australia.
It’s a situation which has frustrated local producers especially where a broadcaster has leant heavily upon NZ drama on its multichannels to count towards quota.
From 2021 networks will have more flexibility in meeting local content obligations, which dispense with sub-quotas in Drama, Documentary and Children’s.
Networks will still have to meet 250 local points, through a complex system allocated to Series, Miniseries, Children’s, Movies, Documentary as they see fit -with the latter capped at 50 points (to avoid a saturation of Reality TV).
One change flagged for NZ content will mean networks will now be required to invest from start-up, rather than licensing as an acquisition only. What is less clear is how that is defined -does $1 qualify as investment, or a percentage of budget overall?
In the flurry to announce new content measures, this has not been detailed, and is the subject of industry discussion.
Recently Foxtel dumped NZ made Shortland Street, which it attributed to declining audience numbers. While it may look like the two are linked (given Foxtel is not an investor in the series), Foxtel’s content rules also differ from Free to Air: it must spend a percentage of budget on production -so the NZ soap did not contribute to quota anyway.
Meanwhile there is also debate about whether soaps such as Neighbours and Home & Away will see networks satisfy much of their new obligations. Both Seven and 10 have stressed that’s not the case, but under the new points system an increased per hour cost could mean their value increases significantly -including as Offset, and potentially doubling their points’ worth.
But networks are at pains to point out local drama rates with audiences and is the reason they want to keep producing them.
Nine’s Head of Drama Andy Ryan recently told TV Tonight, “The bottom line is that the new system gives us a lot more flexibility and that’s a good thing from our point of view. So, in that sense, we’re pleased. The thing to remember, in any discussion about Drama, is that we don’t commission Dramas to meet quota. We commission Drama, because it is successful, and gives us texture to the programming.
“So that approach is not going to change.”